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How to build fitness habits that last

Behavioral psychology suggests several ways to make your exercise habit more consistent—from using rewards to utilizing the power of community.

Consistency is key when it comes to sticking to an exercise routine. That’s why it’s important to focus on making small, incremental changes and using positive reinforcement to build healthy habits that last. By incorporating simple tricks based on behavioral psychology, you can set yourself up for long-term success.

 

Give yourself time to build a new habit

Creating a new exercise habit can be challenging, but research suggests that it’s possible to build a sustainable routine with consistent effort over time. While some experts suggest that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, others point to a longer time frame of around 66 days or even 90 days to make the behavior automatic. Therefore, it is important to be patient and persistent, allowing yourself ample time to develop a new habit that becomes ingrained in your daily routine.

At CAROL Bike, we believe in the power of consistency. Our riders hit an average of 3.2 rides per week in their first 100 days, showing that it’s possible to build a lasting fitness habit with the help of short, scientific workouts that fit seamlessly into your day.

 

Set a schedule

Regular exercise can be challenging to maintain, but with a little planning you can turn it into a sustainable habit. In a 2021 megastudy, scientists from 15 different US universities developed 54 digital programs that increased the frequency of gym visits, based on applied behavioral science. Some of the simplest methods were to create scheduled workout plans ahead of time and send reminders 30 minutes before the session.

 

To make exercise a regular part of your routine, it’s important to set specific days and times for your workouts. For instance, if you wake up early, consider working out in the morning before you shower. Alternatively, if you typically watch TV in the early evening, try exercising during your favorite show. Consistency is key, so stick to your schedule. Without a set time, you may put off exercising until you have more energy, and then put it off again the next day.

 

Rituals can also help reinforce your new habit. Create your own rituals to get yourself in the right mood, like folding your workout clothes every evening before your session, creating a workout playlist, or enjoying your favorite drink after your workout.

Setting specific days and times for your workouts can help make it a regular part of your routine.

Opt for shorter, more regular workouts

Small changes in habits can lead to more consistent and remarkable results than trying to pressure yourself into intense training at once. James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, suggests committing to small, incremental improvements. Starting with a small commitment and gradually building up over time can help you stick to your exercise routine for the long haul.

CAROL Bike’s signature Reduced Exertion HIIT (REHIT) Intense workout can be done in just 5 minutes. It’s short, simple and effective—making it easy to form a simple habit that fits seamlessly into your day.

Use a reward system

Understanding how habits work can help you make fitness a consistent part of your routine. In his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg outlines the structure of a habit: Cue (trigger) + Routine + Reward = Habit. This means that our brain automates behaviors that bring some value or reward, optimizing our mental energy.

To increase your motivation to exercise, it’s important to make your gym sessions more enjoyable. You can cycle through your favorite real-world routes in the comfort of your home with apps like Zwift, Kinomap, and FulGaz, or watch your favorite TV shows on Netflix, YouTube, or other entertainment apps integrated with CAROL Bike. You can also reward yourself by buying high-quality running shoes or treating yourself to a small indulgence after completing a workout.

 

Choosing sports activities that you genuinely enjoy can also make a significant difference. Research shows that people who seek “pleasure” from physical activity are more motivated and autonomous than those who seek “health,” “aesthetics,” or “stress control.” These participants enjoy their workouts more, show greater effort and persistence, and are more likely to continue with their chosen form of exercise in the long term.

By understanding how habits work and making fitness more enjoyable, you can create a positive loop that makes exercise a natural part of your routine.

Track your progress

Our brains are wired to seek out and experience the positive feeling of achieving a goal, which is why setting clear fitness goals is a powerful motivator. One way to ensure you’re on track to achieving your goals is by using the SMART system. This system emphasizes setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Depending on your priorities, your goals can include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increasing your endurance, or
  • Improving your cardio fitness


To track your progress, CAROL Bike’s Fitness Score and detailed performance metrics make it easy to stay motivated. For extra motivation, you can also connect seamlessly to apps like Peloton Digital and Apple Fitness+ to access on-demand classes and personalized training from a personal trainer.

Setting clear fitness goals, using the SMART method, can be a powerful motivator.

CAROL Bike's Fitness Score and detailed performance metrics will track your progress, providing extra motivation to continue achieving your goals.

Use the power of community

Social networks can be a powerful tool for establishing and maintaining new habits. Research shows that people are more likely to copy the behaviors of those in their social circles. In fact, one of the top-performing incentives from the aforementioned study was informing gym members that most Americans are exercising and that exercise is trending up, which resulted in a 24% boost in visits.

To establish exercise as a habit, consider joining a group of like-minded individuals. You can participate in group exercise classes or make an agreement with friends to exercise together regularly. This can also introduce some friendly competition to your routine, such as running a fitness challenge or participating in a 30-day workout challenge together.

With CAROL Bike you can track your progress amongst your friends and our wider rider community that can help with motivation. Together, you can motivate each other to stay on track and make exercise a habit that lasts.

Maintaining fitness habits can be challenging, but there are proven methods that can help you stay consistent. By understanding the value of exercise in your life and finding enjoyable ways to incorporate it into your routine, you can create a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Additionally, tracking your progress and celebrating your achievements can help you stay motivated. While building social connections and joining a supportive community can provide accountability and encourage you to keep going. With these tricks, you can establish a lasting fitness habit and enjoy the many benefits of a healthy lifestyle

Got a question? Let's book a call.

All our experts have MSCs in Exercise Science, and they’re here to answer your questions. Whether it’s about these workouts, or the science behind CAROL Bike, whatever’s on your mind—we’re here for you.
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